Sculptures of Tibetan teachers often depict them with a patched robe over their vest. The small patch design above was made with copper and silver inlay. The face has been painted with cold gold and pigments.
Usually, the hem of the undergarment is also inlaid with the same metal(s) to match the robe.
From the 15th century onwards, most sculptures are fire-gilt and the patches are delineated with overlaid strips of metal before the gilding process.
16th century (or earlier), Southern Tibet, lama, gilt copper alloy, photo by Rossi & Rossi.
As the centuries go by the patches are larger. The above are marked with deep grooves. (We will note how the tail end of the garment is beautifully arranged into a scallop shape over the lotus base).
Sometimes, the patches are delineated with silver strands over the copper alloy.
On this masterpiece, the copper-inlaid hem is decorated with an incised zig-zag pattern. Copper has also been inlaid between the patches.
The term ‘inlay’ is often used when in fact one metal has been added over another, but the above sculpture is a clear case of copper inlay, which blends in with the copper alloy and leaves a smooth surface.